The bodies of two Omaha men killed when their car crashed into a business Friday night were removed from the rubble Saturday afternoon and have been identified.
The driver was 24-year-old Dustin Hollenbeck and his passenger, 20-year-old Dylan Thompson.
The accident happened at 9:18 p.m. at the "New 2 You" thrift store near 42nd and Leavenworth, which was unoccupied at the time. Police say speed was a factor and the victims were ejected from the vehicle upon impact. Neither man was wearing a seat belt. Alcohol use will be investigated. Autopsies have been scheduled for Sunday.
"I noticed the tan Buick in my lane out of control, kind of sideways,” said witness Joseph Hunt. “I would estimate 70, 80 miles per hour, completely out of control, came up on the curb, hit a fire hydrant and into the building."
Hunt said they almost hit him on his motorcycle. "I just gave the bike everything it had to get out of the way. I mean I felt it right behind me, heard it and seen the muffler come right out in front of me and bump the wheel on my bike."
Right after the accident, officers searched with K-9s looking for the driver. They initially thought the crash was a hit-and-run. Soon after, officers found a body inside the building, but because of the condition of the structure they were not able to go inside. They were concerned the roof would collapse.
Omaha Fire and Rescue and the OPD Bomb Squad were called in to assist. Using a robot, they were able to locate a second body.
"It is very precarious at this point and could collapse at any moment,” said Omaha Police Officer James Shade. "Officers are doing everything they can working with fire department to recover the bodies from this rubble, but we want to make sure that we are safe, we don't get anyone hurt accidentally, cause that roof to cave in."
Heavy machinery was brought in to remove damaged portions of the building. Crews built a scaffolding system to make a sort of tunnel inside the structure. That way they were able to retrieve the bodies around 3 p.m. and had protection just in case the building collapsed.
Public Works was attempting to stabilize the area to make it safe for the public. The area will be fenced off with the hope of reopening at least some of the traffic lanes around the intersection.
Sarah Revord, manager of the building, came to the scene Saturday to check out the damage, but what she ended up finding out was much worse. "It was shocking to see the gaping size of the hole and this tiny car in front of it. You just can't even wrap your head around how that happened. My heart hit my stomach.”
"It's a terrible tragedy to lose people like that,” said onlooker Mike Kalinowski. “It could have been avoided."
"I could not believe it,” said onlooker Bill Yambor. “It was devastating to see the damage that was done. It just looked terrible."